Winter River/Tracadie Bay Watershed Group on the Draft Water Act

UntitledSarah Wheatley and Cathy Corrigan of the Winter River/Tracadie Bay Watershed Group made some excellent points in their presentation, including the need to address the issue of moving water from one watershed to another:

“Banning water exports from PEI is a good step, but it doesn’t address an existing problem.

Water is being exported from the Winter River watershed in the process of supplying Charlottetown with water.

Other provinces have banned the movement of water between watersheds (ex. BC, ON).

Small scale exports, across small distances might not cause much issue, but the levels exported from Winter River clearly do have a negative impact.”

See their powerpoint presentation here

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Environmental Coalition Comments on Draft Water Act

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The Environmental Coalition made a presentation at the public consultation on the draft Water Act, April 12 at Poole’s Corner. Here’s some of what Daniel MacRae and Ann Wheatley had to say:

Legislation aimed at preservation and conservation is paramount in moving forward to protect our water, but it’s not enough.  In this province, fish kills and anoxia are recurring, predictable events. At the same time, people are, with reason, concerned about high levels of Nitrates in their drinking water. As strong as the Act may be in terms of dealing with contaminants after the fact, there does not seem to be anything about preventing contamination from occurring in the first place.

While it’s true that agriculture is not the only source of contamination of water, much can be attributed to overdependence on chemical inputs such as pesticides, fungicides and fertilizers, and practices such as fall plough
ing with no cover crops, removal of hedgerows, inadequate crop rotation & buffer zones. We acknowledge that many farmers are caring for the land and water, but really, we can’t dance around the problem. Within the act there should be some indication of how contamination of water will be prevented. While the particulars may indeed be contained within other pieces of legislation, there should be something within the actual water act that establishes those links, and maybe even calls for regular review of pertinent Agriculture and Land Use Acts and Regulations to ensure that all possible measures are in place to prevent contaminants from entering our water.”

Read the whole presentation here: ECOPEI – Draft Water Act April 2017.

Coalition Members Make Presentations on the Draft Water Act

Leo Broderick made a presentation on the draft water act on April 5 in Summerside. See his presentation notes here.

He asked, “How will the Water Act protect our groundwater?” and showed an old map of nitrate contamination in PEI, suggesting that groundwater in several areas of the province is not fit to drink. And that the Act does not have leverage to deal with what is a growing public health issue in the province associated with nitrate- contaminated water and most likely with pesticides as well.

Gary Schneider sent a submission electronically. You can read the whole thing here. And here’s an excerpt:

“After carefully reading the draft Act, I still don’t know how we are going to protect water in this province. I would have liked to have seen, even in a preamble or in the “Inside the Water Act” document, a statement on how we’re going to substantially reduce nitrates and pesticides in our waterways. Islanders need and deserve clear and enforceable targets on reducing nitrates, agricultural and cosmetic pesticides, and soil erosion, and to know how these will be achieved. This will include everything from removing loopholes and strengthening the crop rotation legislation to increasing the width of buffer zones as needed to protect waterways.”

Draft Water Act Meetings – April 5, 10 & 12

The timeframe is pretty short – but everyone is welcome to participate in one of these meetings. The Draft Water Act will be presented, and there will be time for formal presentations and for comments & questions from the public, even if you are not registered to speak. Online submissions are also welcome.

Find out more information about the Act here, and about how to participate here.

 

 

Draft Water Act Released

The long-awaited first draft of a Water Act for PEI has been released! And now the second round of consultations begins. To help us prepare for the consultations, the Coalition for Protection of PEI Water will hold a MEETING on Monday, March 20 at 7 pm at the Farm Centre in Charlottetown. Everyone is welcome to come and share their first thoughts about the proposed legislation.

DSCF2668Schedule of public meetings

  • Thursday, March 30, 7:00 to 9:00 pm – Kaylee Hall, Pooles Corner
  • Monday, April 3, 7:00 to 9:00 pm – Westisle Composite High School, Elmsdale
  • Wednesday, April 5, 7:00 to 9:00 pm – Credit Union Place, Summerside
  • Monday, April 10, 7:00 to 9:00 pm – Murphy’s Community Centre, Charlottetown

If you would like to make a presentation at one of these meetings, please pre-register with the Department of Communities, Land and Environment, by e-mail sjmoore@gov.pe.ca(link sends e-mail) or by phone (902) 368-5028.

Please note that each presentation will be limited to ten minutes.

Coalition Presents to Standing Committee

imagesOn October 26th, the Coalition for Protection of PEI Water made a presentation to the Standing Committee on Communities, Land and Environment, following a presentation by the proponents of a proposal for a bottled water plant near Brookvale, PEI.  The Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water was represented by Don Mazer, Andrew Lush, Leo Broderick and Chris Ortenburger. As you can imagine, the Coalition has a host of reasons why P.E.I. should not be exporting groundwater. Read the whole presentation here.

Department of Communities, Lands and the Environment Responds to Coalition Concerns

Letter from Deputy Minister, on behalf of Minister Robert Mitchell, sent on September 29, 2016:

We value the opportunity to continue the dialogue on matters of mutual interest as we work toward a new Water Act. While we share the desire to ensure our natural resources, including water, are protected and that good decisions are made, it is also important to ensure that the existing legislation is respected while we develop the new Act.

Your proposal to impose a moratorium is a difficult one, as you point out. There is a moratorium on high capacity well permits for agricultural irrigation, however no such restriction is in place for other high capacity wells such as institutional, residential or commercial. In addition under current legislation  there is no requirement for a permit to drill a well that is not high capacity, which makes your request challenging.

Under section 12 of the EPA the extraction of water to remove from the province is expressly prohibited except for the extraction of water for drinking purposes:

BULK WATER REMOVAL 12.1

 (1) No person shall drill for, extract, take or use groundwater for the purpose of transfer or removal from the province.

 (2) No person shall extract, remove or withdraw water from any water basin, watercourse or other surface water body in the province for the purpose of transfer or removal from the province.

 (3) Subsections (1) and (2) do not apply to water

(a) that is to be used for drinking water purposes and is packaged in Prince Edward Island in containers having a capacity of not more than 25 litres; or

This provision specifically exempts the bottling of drinking water and appears to have been adopted in 2001 c.34 where section 12.1 was added. I am enclosing the excerpts from Hansard for your information, as you can see at page 2010 there was recognition of bottled water businesses on PEI at that time. I believe this provision was brought in by all provinces to deal with the possibility of the diversion of bulk water to the US.

As we develop new legislation on water it is expected that priorities for the allocation of water will be included in the framework. It seems clear that protecting water resources for future generations of humans as well as other species is a common goal of all Islanders, including the government.

Please be assured that the departmental staff members are diligently examining all applications for permits that come into the department to ensure our water is not threatened and that decisions are made in accordance with the current Act and regulations. We are working with other divisions to ensure a multi layered lens is brought to complex or highly contentious files, and will continue our work in this area.

Government takes its role as regulator very seriously and is committed to developing a strong new Act that reflects the values and priorities of Islanders. As always there is a balancing of rights that must be accomplished and this can only be done well with a thorough process. We are only part way through this process and until now the issue of bottled water has not been raised during the consultation process.

In order to avoid arbitrariness in government action, we must proceed thoughtfully and thoroughly. Water is a significant component in many Island industries, and only with deliberation can we move forward on this issue in a fair and transparent manner.

I believe your concerns are two fold:

·        current projects being undertaken by businesses that could potentially risk the quantity or quality or water; and

·         the policy question of the sale and export of bottled water.

Your first issue is being managed closely by departmental staff to ensure responsible oversight is conducted to the extent our authority permits. We are confident that we can work with people to ensure monitoring is conducted to manage any future risk, and that if risk elevates then the Minister would be within his authority to act.

The policy question relating to the export of water is squarely within the realm of the new water act. Upcoming consultations may bring out the issues and concerns related to the commercial use of water and what limits are necessary in new legislation.  While there is a difference between bottled water and bottled juice or other beverages, to some the difference is subtle. We are simply not equipped at this time with sufficient information to act on your request, but we will be working to identify the implications of the commercial use of water and the export of water.

Please be assured that we will be mindful of the concern and have heightened our attention to the issues relating to section 12.1 of the EPA.

Deputy Minister of Communities, Land and the Environment, Michele Dorsey

Coalition Asks for Moratorium on Bottled Water Exports

shutterstock_103020260Following a meeting with Environment Minister Robert Mitchell, members of the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water ask, in anticipation of the next phase of development of a Water Act,  for interim measures to protect water including a moratorium on bottling water for export:

Dear Minister Mitchell

Thank you for meeting with us last week. We were able to cover some of our concerns and we look forward to further discussions with you as we move towards a comprehensive water act. We wanted to follow up on the meeting with some key concerns and questions that we have.

We must impress upon you that we do believe that it would be a prudent and responsible decision to put a hold on future water extraction permits for anything other than the most essential purposes while we await the Water Act. We realize that this is a difficult challenge. While businesses have a certain expectation of expediency, we believe it is your role to impress upon them that any decisions around water use must primarily be grounded in having a system in place that first of all respects our environment and protects our water for future generations. The very process of developing a Water Act reflects the collective awareness that our current policies and regulations been inadequate in accomplishing these key goals. We believe that it is not acceptable to continue to make decisions about water use based upon problematic policies.

One of the important recognitions for us from that meeting is that it seems like no one (including the Coalition) has thought about how decisions about water use and permits will be made in the interim period while the Water Act is being developed. So it is not surprising that current policies, however inadequate, become the ‘fall back’ position.

While we do support a ‘moratorium’ on new permits and uses, we think that it is essential that there be an interim set of priorities for water use developed while we await the Water Act. If decisions must be made in the interim, they need to be grounded in these principles and provide the opportunity to meet ‘essential’ needs. From the consultations, there seems to be widespread agreement that our priorities must always be given first to maintaining healthy ecosystems, providing for basic human needs, and for fire and emergency services. All other permits and new uses can be seen as lower priority and should await the Water Act, and the opportunity to have the discussions and consultations we need about how we believe our water should be used.

Such guidelines would have supported postponing the decision on the AquaBounty applications for permits as a nonessential use, and for the proposed bottled water plant in Brookvale that plans to use PEI water for export.

There are other reasons why a moratorium would be advisable. While we appreciate that you have advised businesses that permits granted now might not be applicable under a new Act, the unsettled issues about grandfather clauses raises serious concerns about whether the province would be liable or responsible for costs should a permit need to be rescinded. We include some other relevant questions and comments about the permitting process.

 Is a PEI permit transferable to another property or business owner?  Can it be included in a personal estate as property to be inherited? Is it collateral for a bank loan? Can excess capacity be sold or traded (or combined into a new enterprise?)  Can neighbors who lose a well or can property owners in a watershed that is drained stop the permitted owner from impacting them? Can PEI rights be sold or transferred to a private interest in another province or to an international interest?

Not only should we be looking at responsible management of water within the province, but also at considering the sovereignty and future food and water security of the Island. We have mutual reasons to prevent PEI water from being a privately owned global commodity.

John Quimby, who lived in California, mentioned the effect of grandfathered water rights there given in 1914 that affected private property owners, the public and government during an historic drought emergency in 2014.

Closer to home, we have seen the public response to the Nestle model of extraction for profit during a drought emergency in Ontario.

Finally, the discussion of the proposed water bottling plant in Brookvale reflected major gaps in policy that needs to be immediately addressed. It was surprising to learn that your department had no jurisdiction to decide about this proposal if the applicants stayed within the existing water extraction guidelines. As we all agree, the way we use our water is an important moral and ethical issue and one that is hotly contested. It is much more than a business decision that can be made by individuals. It was clear that the existing policies would make it possible for any other entrepreneurs to pursue a similar plan. We would be taking a major step toward the commodification of water, without even discussing it.

We urge you to address this policy gap by declaring a moratorium on going forward on any developments of bottled water for export, and will then hope it will be addressed in the Act.

Catherine O’Brien, Don Mazer, Chris Ortenburger, Leo Broderick, John Quimby, For the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water